the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sunday 10/23/05 Year A - Proper 25

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46
Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Do You Love God with All Your Heart, Soul and Strength?

Love is a word very much misused in our world today. In the day of King James and his Authorized Translation of the Holy Scriputres, the Greek word αγαπη was translated in to English with the word Charity. And perhaps this word captures more of the true meaning of the Greek, except that in our mondern day the word charity has it's own probllems.

Love, the kind of love that God has for us and that we have for whatever our god is, has a self sacrificing nature. It is a giving up of our own self centered wants and desires for the wellbeing of the other.

In a marriage of two people, each one learns through love, to put their own issues on the shelf until they are sure that the other has been taken care of. Then, and only then, will they assert their own needs and desires, knowing that, through love, the other will be as caring of them as they are of the other.

Jesus said, he that seeketh his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

And yet, there is still some passion, some desire in the longing for the reunion with the separated one. When we are away from our loved one, we feel empty, lonely, incomplete. We need the presence of the other in our life for wholeness.

We inately feel separated from God. That separation has been felt from long ago. The ancients stood in the dark and gazed at the night sky. They felt that longing, that emptiness, that sense of smallness. They presumed that there must be something out there bigger than they. Religion and religious expression in all cultures and in all times has been, and is still, the seeking of reunion with the God from whom we have been separated.

These descriptions of love and need for other people act as metaphors for describing our love and need for God.

Today we are going to examine five scriptures and one theologian to help us answer our question: Do You love God with all your Heart, Soul and Strength?

Our first scripture is in our Gospel text: Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment. In giving his answer, Jesus quotes the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 6:5. In the parallel passage in Mark (12:28-34) Jesus uses verse 4 and 5 which, to the Jew, ancient and modern, is the most sacred of all the texts of the Bible. It is called the Shema., and is our second scripture:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Our Theologian, Paul Tillich, says in his Dynamics of Faith that our object of ultimate concern is our god. For Tillich, ultimate means highest, most important and most urgent.

Moses spoke the words of God in the first commandment: NRS Exodus 20:2-3
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
For the Jew and Christian, both ancient and modern, the LORD must be the object of ultimate concern.

Loving God with all our heart means our passions, our feelings, our emotional selves. Loving God with all our soul means our reason, our intellectual selves. And Loving God with all our might, or strength, means our physical selves. For God to be our ultimate concern we must love him with our whole person. And for Tillich, this is ultimate, highest, most important and most urgent concern. Tillich calls this ultimate concern Faith.

After giving the answer to the Pharasees' question, Jesus immediately follows with the second commandment in importance which he says is like the first. "Love your neighbor as yourself." This is a quotation from the book of Leviticus and brings us to our third scripture:

NRS Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Dylan Breuer says that the first commentary on this verse is to be found in James 2:1-14 (our fourth scripture). The advice given here first of all is that we should not show partiality in dealing with people of different status. In fact, thinking in terms of status is foreign to the way Jesus would have us see people.

James goes further in his interpretation, however, to ask the question: What good is it...if you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? This is the never ending debate over faith vs. works. Pauls says yes, we are saved by faith not by works. Paul means by works keeping the law in the manner of the Pharasees. James says no, faith without works is dead. James means by works caring for our neighbors, loving them as ourselves.

Returning now to our Theologian, Tillich says,
In the great commandment of the Old Testament, confirmed by Jesus, the object of ultimate concern, and the object of unconditional love, is God. From this is derived the love of what is God's, represented by both the neighbor and oneself. Therefore, it is the "fear of God" and the "love of Christ" which, in the whole Biblical literature, determines the behavior toward other human beings...Faith implies love, love lives in works: in this sense faith is actual in works...Faith as the state of being untimately concerned implies love and determines action. It is the ultimate power behind both of them.

But John says it best in his first letter to those he addresses as "My little children," which is our fith and final scripture: 1 John 4:16-21

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

And now abide Faith, Love and Works, these three...and you can't have one without the others.

Returning now to an earlier metaphor, here are the words of a song popular in the 1950's:

Love and Marriage
Love and Marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
Let me tell you brother
You can't have one without the other.

Let us pray...


Blogger JeffGeorgia said...

Brother, these are great words you put in your blog. Being a messianic jew I find the Shema to be a rededication prayer to G-d for His love and His people. In my Testimony one can notice how I chose to serve G-d with all my heart, soul, and strength above the approval my parents, friends, and everyone. I guess I chose the LOVE path because I caught a glimpse of G-d and how LIKE and LOVE for me. Before I accepted Jesus I loved G-d but not fully knowing the purpose I would get out of it. When I accepted Jesus as my Lord, the story changed and found out His LOVE makes you complete and better yet he LIKES me a lot. This thought of G-d's love and like for me helps in all areas of your life - putting things in perspective. The problem is preachers rush people into the sinners prayer without full knowledge on why G-d is the author of LOVE.

Thanks for your prayers and comments on my blog

10/22/2005 8:30 PM  

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